You can abuse someone all you want, but one thing you can never do is make them believe or not believe in anything. The person will decide that themselves, on the inside. No one else has any power over that.
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another Friday End Times post. Last week I wrote about idolatry, and the many forms that takes. It’s more subtle than we often think.
This week I’m going to continue writing about faith. It’s important to think about these faith topics as the Second Coming draws closer and time runs out. Today I’m writing about what happens when we force our faith on others.
Spiritual Abuse: One Definition
If you google “spiritual abuse” you’ll find a site called SpiritualAbuse.org, which has a definition of the term. Among other things, they say:
[…] spiritual abuse affects one spiritually. It is the result of a spiritual leader or system that tries to control, manipulate, or dominate a person. This control is often in the form of fear.http://www.spiritualabuse.org/introduction.html
So I at least understand what they’re talking about. They mean spiritual abuse in the sense of a predatory spiritual leader, like a cult leader. Of course such a thing is abusive. Spiritual leaders should be building their people up, not harming them or having total control over them (which is harm).
But besides that, spiritual leaders are only supposed to teach. They aren’t supposed to manipulate, intimidate, punish, or use other tactics to force people what to believe. That word, force, is at the core of what I consider spiritual abuse to be.
True Faith Isn’t Forced, Forced Faith Isn’t True
We can never force someone to believe in Jesus. That’s not possible. Parents, for example, can punish their kids in all kind of ways to force them to believe … or perhaps I should say, to force them to profess belief. Because at some point the kids will say they believe in Jesus so they can avoid more punishment, whether they really believe or not. They’re only saying it to avoid punishment, but there’s no telling what their true feelings are on the inside.
Having faith is a personal choice, you decide it for yourself, and no one can ever know or change your true choice. A child who grows up suffering punishment and even abuse over the topic of faith will only grow up to make a connection between faith and their abuse. They’ll see Christianity (or any religion) as a bad thing, as they’ll associate it with the abuse they grew up in. Can we blame any of them for feeling this way? Of course not! They had the faith beaten out of them as children. It’s no wonder they would feel negatively toward any faith now.
Now this kind of situation is what I think about when I hear the words ‘spiritual abuse.’ The act of trying to force beliefs on someone, which is impossible to do in the first place. You can abuse someone all you want, but one thing you can never do is make them believe or not believe in anything. The person will decide that themselves, on the inside. No one else has any power over that.
This is wrong because we are never supposed to threaten, abuse, or dominate people into “believing” in Jesus. I put “believing” in quotes because any faith that would result from this wouldn’t be real. True faith isn’t forced, it’s a willful and voluntary choice. And forced faith isn’t true, for many reasons.
And one of those reasons is that Jesus Himself never showed us anything like that by example. Just the opposite.
Our God Never Forces Faith
I wrote about this two weeks ago on my blog. In Part 3 of the Free from Ahab miniseries about the Ahab spirit, I explained the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive behavior. Check that post for the full rundown. But for a quick summary, in part, I wrote:
Aggressiveness means walking all over others. It means breaking them down with insults and abuse to make them give in to your demands. It means dominating others, using threats, abuse, and other sinful means to get your way with them. It’s strong-arming others into doing what you want.
It’s like being a little tyrant.
Sometimes society confuses aggressiveness for assertiveness, but that’s all wrong. Aggressiveness is not assertiveness. Assertive people don’t need to be aggressive, I’ll return to that point shortly. Aggressiveness is disordered and sinful. God does not want us to be passive or aggressive.
Well, to bring it back to today’s topic, forcing means being aggressive. Forcing faith is spiritual abuse (by my definition). And Jesus never did that.
Let’s look at the Gospel story that I think best illustrates this. It’s the story of Jesus meeting the young rich man in Matthew 19.
(16) A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” (17) Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” (18) The man said, “Which ones?” Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. (19) Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (20) The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?” (21) Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” (22) But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions.Matthew 19:16-22 (CEB)
In Part 3 of Free from Ahab, I said this about the story:
Jesus did not force anything on him. The aggressive response would have been to not let the young man walk away. To force him to sell his possessions. Jesus could have said, “Wait, don’t walk away. I’m going to sell all your possessions for you so you can follow what I’m saying.” That would be forcing the Christian path on the man. That would be aggressive. Note that Jesus never forced anything on anyone at any time in the Gospels. He respected people’s right to make their own decisions. He of course knew that forced faith isn’t genuine, and genuine faith isn’t forced.
On a side note, it’s too bad that Jesus’ human servants got that point so wrong centuries later. The Gospels were beaten into slaves from Africa. Native American children were forced into schools where Christianity was forced on them. All this is aggressive behavior. Aggressiveness is not Christian, it’s not assertive, and it isn’t faithful to Jesus’ own example. We are commissioned to preach the Gospel, not to force it on people! That’s pointless in the end anyway, because forced faith isn’t genuine and genuine faith isn’t forced.
And that about says it all. Jesus never forced faith on anybody. He knew that there would be no point. Forced faith isn’t true, and true faith isn’t forced. What would be the point of forcing everyone to follow Him? Jesus searches our hearts. Forced faith isn’t pleasing to Him. He wants us to want to follow Him, so we do it for real!
Faith Can Never Be Forced
But how is this relevant to the End Times? Well, it ties in to something I first said all the way back in my first post.
Since Jesus Christ is returning soon, it’s only understandable that you want to make sure all your family members and loved ones have faith in Him. But I’m sorry to say, you have to leave that up to God. Never stop praying for them, because our prayers do change things. God may come to them and give them true faith if you keep praying for them.
But that faith can only come from within, it’s a personal choice to accept Jesus as LORD and Savior. We really can’t save anyone else, y’know? It’s important to understand that fact. Here’s something I wrote all the way back in my first post:
You have to worry about your own faith now, your own heart and mind, and your own ways. No matter how much you love someone, you can’t make their faith real. Only they can, it all happens within.
Never stop praying for them. And keep talking to them with compassion too. Never underestimate the value of planting a seed by explaining to someone why they should turn to Jesus now. You never know; they might remember it later when something happens in their life. They might think about what you said, and think about accepting Jesus. At that point they might come to you for more guidance, or they might do something else, but the point is they won’t do anything until they’re ready. The choice to accept Jesus as LORD and Savior has to come from within, and people need to be ready to make that choice.
Usually they become ready to make that choice due to their life experiences and circumstances. For one example, when people hit rock bottom they often understand that the way they’ve been living has gotten them nowhere, and they need to do things differently. People often find Jesus at times like this. So how can you force something like this? You can’t. You need to let go and let people live their lives. They must choose to have faith by their own free will.
We can’t force faith on anyone. It doesn’t work, it’s pointless. And Jesus Himself never did it. It causes people to hate and resent Jesus, because of associating Him with the actions of His human followers. It’s wrong, and we must not do it. We must let others choose faith.
If we try to force them, it’s spiritual abuse.
Well that’s all for this week. If you enjoyed today’s post, please be sure to Subscribe using the link below. And please consider Supporting My Blog using the Tip Jar. Any amount is much appreciated!
Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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